HealthDay News — The risk for severe COVID-19 leading to hospital admission and death is increased at a body mass index (BMI) of more than 23kg/m2, according to a study published online April 28 in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Min Gao, from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a community-based cohort study using deidentified patient-level data to examine the association of obesity with adverse outcomes after SARS-CoV-2 infection. Data were included for 6,910,695 eligible individuals (mean BMI, 26.78kg/m2).

The researchers found that 0.20% of the eligible individuals were admitted to the hospital, 0.02% were admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU), and 0.08% died after a positive SARS-CoV-2 test. A J-shaped association was identified between BMI and admission to the hospital for COVID-19 and death (adjusted hazard ratios per kg/m2 from the nadir at BMI of 23kg/m2, 1.05 and 1.04, respectively); across the whole BMI range, there was a linear association with ICU admission (hazard ratio, 1.10). There was a significant interaction between BMI and age and ethnicity; above BMI 23kg/m2, hazard ratios increased per kg/m2 for younger people (adjusted hazard ratio for hospital admission, 1.09 vs 1.01 for those aged 20 to 39 vs 80 to 100 years) and for Blacks vs Whites (hazard ratios, 1.07 vs 1.04).

“We don’t yet know that weight loss specifically reduces the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes, but it is highly plausible, and will certainly bring other health benefits,” a coauthor said in a statement.

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